Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gas Stations: Crime Stoppers

Thieves, consider yourselves on notice!

Gas stations are tough on crime.

That's why you have to input your zip code after you swipe your card while paying at the pump. I suppose if you go inside and purchase gas, then you don't have to input your zip code. You just have to make an unintelligible mark on that 3 inch screen.

Gas stations are tough on crime as long as you are paying at the pump.

Of course, when you live somewhere that is 40 miles from any other gas station, and 100% of people pumping gas share a zip code, that makes guessing the zip code a pretty easy proposition. In this situation, the thief will find himself without gas only if he can't remember his own zip code.     

Gas stations are tough on crime as long as you are paying at the pump and don't live in the middle of nowhere.

Then again, some gas stations have instituted a new security policy to replace the zip code policy. This is my favorite. After you have swiped the card, you must then type in the last four digits of the card you swiped three seconds earlier.  I can imagine one scenario in which this brilliant measure could do some good. Thief steals card. Thief swipes the card to pay at the pump then IMMEDIATELY throws the card as far as he can into the air; a gust of wind catches the card and blows it out of sight. Ah ha! Foiled! 

Gas stations are tough on crime as long as you are paying at the pump, don't live in the middle of nowhere, and hang on to the card for at least 4 seconds after swiping the card.

Thieves, maybe you should steal a bike instead of a credit card. Then you'll be able to sleep at night, and not lie in bed wondering where your next tank of gas will come from.

Monday, November 14, 2011

"Spoiler Alert!"

(Editorial  Note: I'm not actually Alerting or Spoiling here. So read on!)

"Spoiler Alert! The Land of Oz was just Dorothy's dream!"

I appreciate the effort here, but it hasn't done anyone a bit of good.  By the time the mind has processed the words Spoiler Alert, the Spoil has already happened.  The practice, as I've seen it, must be refined.

I'm here to help.

Picture a Corvette driving down the highway at 70 mph.  If you decide to jump in front of it, you better get out in front of it a little bit if you expect it to stop.  Same goes with reading.  Even the sharpest minds will take one or two seconds to process the words Spoiler Alert.  Therefore, the Spoiler must be, at a minimum, 2 seconds after the Alert in order to do some good. Otherwise no Alert has happened. Just the Spoiling. And that's what we're trying to avoid.

You also must think of your audience when deciding the proper distance to place the Spoiler from the Alert.  Let's say your audience is mainly made up of men who only read the sports page and TV Guide. These guys aren't likely to read like the Corvette speeding down the highway.  Picture, instead, a guy pushing a wheelbarrow carrying 200 apples down a dirt road.  Just because he travels slowly, it doesn't mean the man will be more apt to slow down for warnings.  He's concentrating on not dropping the apples all over the ground. So, even for the slower, clumsier reader, it will take some time for the Alert to kick in.  Thus, if you have inside knowledge of who won the Heisman, maybe think about placing the Alert a good 4 or 5 sentences before the Spoiling.

Finally, your human readers are weak-minded. We want to spoil surprises. Remember that the reader doesn't know whether it's a super awesome surprise (like Who is Keyser Soze) or a not-so-great surprise.  Give us a little more warning than just Spoiler Alert. Spend a paragraph explaining why we might not want to spoil this. You have some neat information, there. If it's worth the trouble of you writing about it, maybe you shouldn't ruin it for the rest of us weak-minded fools by not being the Spoiler in the first place.

My apologies if I just ruined the surprised because you haven't seen the classic 1939 film referenced above. Spoiler Alert. I'm not talking about Gone with the Wind.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Lunch at the Olive Garden

Olive Garden? That's so. . . college student. I know, I know.

In San Antonio, we were all about going to Non-Chain Restaurants. For good reason. They had AWESOME places to eat. Well, now that we're in the middle of nowhere, that is no longer an option, hence the title of this post.

Oh yeah, and we had a $25 gift card.  And a coupon.

First thing is, wow, it's expensive. We went on a Sunday, so even at lunchtime, they gave us the dinner menu.
Second, they are ALL about pushing wine at you. Notice the next time someone makes you go there. There are wine glasses on the table, wine bottles on the table, grape leaves around the restaurant, and NOW they want to give you a sample wine. Jeesh! Leave me alone already. I'd like to sample the Dr. Pepper please, and if it's a bad combination of carbonation to syrup, then I'll order Iced Tea, thankyouverymuch.

Alison and I each ordered a meal, and the plan was to each eat half, and then switch. Well, when you have a skinny wife, this is never good.  She ends up eating 1/4 of each meal, and I end up eating almost 2 whole portions.  Thanks mom and dad for the finish-everything-on-your-plate rule. I still have trouble leaving food, even on other people's plates. After all, it's wasteful (and delicious!).


The citrus chicken turned out to be very tasty, but the pasta primodora was just okay. Will we go back? With a coupon and a gift card? Sure. We might even find a lowly college student to take with us. If they'll go...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Fake Colored Photographs

I have a problem. I'm not artistic. Once a year I carve a pumpkin in the shape of Mickey Mouse after I direct-draw the face from a picture I steal from the internet. That's the extent of my artistic abilities.

Maybe that's why I have a problem with the check-out-my-incredibly-amazing-photograph that does not at ALL correspond to reality. I'm not talking about the touchup, or even the overhaul; I'm talking about changing the picture from a gray sky to pink, from a round object to square. You might as well just have a blank canvas and draw it yourself.

Maybe we need a new genre of art. Most of the photos are beautiful. I don't have issue with the aesthetic quality at all. It just isn't a photograph.

That will help me feel better about myself. You know, it isn't fun being the guy that looks at something beautiful and says, "that's lame." Now, in my mind, I will just say, "that's an incredibly beautiful thing.  I wonder what that toilet looked like in real life."

Daylight Saving Time

Every six months I undergo an excruciating task. Trying to figure out how Daylight Saving Time or its end will change my everyday life. Now, I think I'm a pretty smart guy. I've got a couple of degrees, and my job takes some higher level thinking, but I cannot seem to wrap my mind around this.

I spent some time thinking about it this morning, and I've finally got it nailed down. The amount of sleep you gain or lose has nothing to do with the time of year. It all depends on whether you have young children. Allow me:

Scenario 1, No Kids: So, you're lying in bed, you see the sun is up, and you look at your clock. The clock reads 7am when it would normally read 8am. You roll over and sleep another hour. So, you gain an hour of sleep. Good for you.

Scenario 2, Kids:  To make sure you don't forget, you turn your clocks from 6pm to 5pm on Saturday. Unfortunately, you believed the hype; extra sleep! So you live it up. At 9pm, your normal bedtime on Saturday night, you see the clock reads 8pm (because you have turned it back already). So you watch 4 episodes of House Hunters International instead of 2. Since you recorded it, that keeps you up an extra 44 minutes. Now the clock reads 8:44pm, so you say to yourself, "Self, I'm going to read. I never have time to read, and tonight, I have an extra hour." So, after an hour and 16 minutes of reading, the clock says 10pm.  In actuality, it's 11pm, and you are now two hours behind.

I'll be generous and say your kids get up at 6:30am on the weekends. Well, what time will the clock read when their internal 6:30 clock wakes them up? That's right, 5:30 am.  You've lost another hour.

2 hours lost before bed plus 1 hour lost in the morning minus the hour you gained gives you a net loss of 2 hours.  

Get some sleep this weekend. You'll need it.

Thanks a lot, Ben Franklin.